The soccer world has rallied behind Jenni Hermoso, leaving Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales looking increasingly isolated as the pressure builds on him a week after his unwanted kiss on the Spain star at the Women’s World Cup final last Sunday.
Andrés Iniesta, who won the men’s World Cup with Spain in 2010, condemned Rubiales’ behavior, saying on social media that the now suspended football federation president was “damaging the image of our country and our football around the world.”
Spain’s Women’s World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda also joined those criticizing the behavior Rubiales who has been refusing to resign over the matter.
“I am deeply sorry that the victory of Spanish women’s football has been harmed by the inappropriate behavior that our until now top leader, Luis Rubiales, has carried out and that he himself has recognized,” Vilda said on Saturday in a statement widely shared by Spanish media.
It was a week ago that Rubiales kissed Hermoso after the player had collected her winners’ medal, an incident seen by millions of viewers around the world.
The scandal has triggered a crisis in Spanish soccer, with world governing body FIFA suspending him for 90 days and every player and coach in Spain’s women’s team resigning en masse, except for head coach Vilda.
Some of the team sponsors have also expressed support for the players, while the federation’s Sexual Violence Advisory Committee said in a statement on the federation’s website that it was investigating Rubiales under its sexual violence protocol.
Rubiales says the kiss was consensual, and the federation has released two statements defending him, one of which has since been deleted, threatening legal action against Hermoso and accusing her of spreading “lies.”
Hermoso said the kiss was unwanted and she and the entire World Cup-winning squad have refused to play for the national team while Rubiales remains president.
“I did not like this incident,” she wrote in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist out of place act without any consent on my part.”
‘With you, Jenni’
As the row dragged on into the weekend, several soccer teams, both male and female, displayed their support for Hermoso at their matches – some held shirts, some wore wristbands, some unfurled banners.
AC Milan and Atletico Madrid players paid tribute to Hermoso at the pre-season Women’s Cup final in Madrid, standing together holding a banner reading “With You Jennifer Hermoso” as the Spanish star watched the game from the stands.
In the US, the Houston Dash displayed a banner reading “Contigo Jenni,” which translates to “With you, Jenni,” and wore white wristbands with the same message written on it during their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game.
Players from the KS Current, Orlando Pride and San Diego Wave – including Alex Morgan – wore similar wristbands, while Hermoso’s own club CF Pachuca held a giant sign in support of her at their game in Mexico.
It was a visual representation of the global solidarity which has marked women’s soccer this week.
Every member of Spain’s women’s coaching staff, except for Vilda, resigned on Saturday, releasing a joint statement saying that Rubiales’ explanation “does not reflect in any way what was felt by Jenni Hermoso, who has expressly said that she felt she was the “victim of aggression.”“
The coaches also said that they were instructed to attend the assembly where Rubiales announced his intention to stay in his post and that “various women members of the coaching staff were required to sit in the front row” in an effort to give the impression that they supported the embattled president.
Their collective resignation was preceded by that of 23 members of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad, including Hermoso, and nearly 50 other professional female soccer players who said they would not play for the national team again until Rubiales was removed from his position. La Roja’s next fixture is less than a month away on September 22.
That solidarity extended into men’s soccer too with Cadiz and Sevilla both showing their support for Hermoso at their respective matches on Saturday, while Spanish soccer icons Xavi and Iniesta voiced their disapproval of Rubiales’ behavior.
Cadiz placed a banner that read “Todos Somos Jenni (We are all Jenni)” on the pitch, a photo of which was later re-posted on X by Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Díaz, who has called for Rubiales to resign.
Meanwhile, Sevilla’s players wore t-shirts with the hashtag “SeAcabó,” meaning “It’s Over,” a reference to Rubiales’ tenure at the federation.
Barcelona manager Xavi said that he “condemned the behavior” of Rubiales and gave his “unconditional support to Jennifer Hermoso and the players” on Saturday, according to Reuters.
“I regret that people aren’t talking about the historic achievement of winning the World Cup,” he added.
Iniesta wrote on X on Sunday that he would like to convey his “sadness, as a person, as a father of three daughters, as a husband and as a footballer,” and that he believes “we cannot tolerate acts like the ones we have seen, which have tarnished a milestone as big as winning a World Cup.”
He added: “Instead, we must put up with a president who has hung on to his position, who has not admitted that his behavior is unacceptable and is damaging the image of our country and our football around the world.”